Letter to AR from VK3QB. Refused publication by the editor.

Dear Peter,

Last month I wrote a letter to the editor where I raised a number of issues.  Whilst the responses were inadequate, I thank Phil Wait and the Board for their acknowledgement of the need to address some of the issues.

Members can decide the appropriateness of our President quoting philosopher Niccolo Machiavello in an attempt to excuse unprofessional behaviour and poor conduct.  The “new order of things” has certainly proven to be “uncertain in success”.  It didn’t need to be.

The issues of financial management were not answered either fully or with complete transparency.   The Board is charged with managing OUR money with professionalism and regard for maximum benefit to the members.  EVERY financial decision should focus on benefit to members.

Phil Wait advised he attended the National Office with the WIA accountant, auditor and Mr Swainston in late February 2016 and informed members of the following:

“We spent several hours analysing the accounting system and the financial records and determined that the WIA did not appear to have any major accounting issues. Accounting processes and record keeping has been very much improved in the last few months, and major problems with the WIA’s upcoming annual financial review are not anticipated. On the information available at the time of writing, it seems the WIA has no major financial issues. We expect the Auditor’s review to go smoothly and the financial result for 2015 will be available after that.”

Auditors are not responsible if inadequate financial management occurs for the previous 12 months; they won’t care that we make a profit or loss; so long as the books are in order at the end of the year.  So, whilst the President reports that there appears to be “no major accounting issues”, will the President confirm that there are no other material financial management issues or even a collection of small but important issues?

To ensure transparency for members I ask the President to answer the following:

  1. A former Director (Rowan Dollar) requested a P&L statement be prepared in the latter part of 2015. The Acting Executive Administrator and WIA Director, Fred Swainston was unable or unwilling to produce such a statement and the Board did not react to what was clearly a major warning flag. Within 2 weeks of becoming Treasurer (late January 2016), it was clear to me that the financial processes and accounting system  were in such a poor state that it was simply not possible to produce a representative P&L statement or Balance Sheet for 2015.  How were financial decisions made during this period?   Would the President explain to members how this represents “very much improved” accounting processes?
  2. In February I presented a P&L Statement to the Board; it highlighted some very serious compliance and performance problems due to entirely inadequate financial management practices in the National Office over the previous 5 months. I asked that the Board review and approve a set of actions to remedy these issues.  My request for Board comment was ignored; it was not held over to a later meeting as claimed.  Can the President explain to members why the Board ignored yet another major alarm that the National Office was out-of-control with finance processes?

Other questions (just a representative sample) that the WIA Director Mr Swainston, whilst in the paid role of Acting Executive Administrator is requested to answer:

  1. Were Accounts receivable and payable being actively managed each month?
  2. Are delays of 3 months to reimburse expenses to volunteers acceptable?
  3. Was GST and BAS processed on time for the second half of 2015 (during which time the WIA was paying an accountant to attend the office)?
  4. Were fines incurred for late payment of invoices?
  5. Were invoices paid multiple times?

Members should be alarmed that the previous two Treasurers have raised serious concerns with the manner in which the finances and accounts were managed between September 2015 and January 2016.  Further, the culture that existed during this period led to the dismantling of key operational procedures that exposed the Institute’s accounting system to financial errors as well as potential fines.  Sure, much of it can be fixed, but how much of the members’ money is being spent on an external accountant during this period and now as a paid Treasurer to remedy problems created between September 2015 and January 2016; a period during which a WIA Director was also being paid to act as Executive Administrator?

Many members are mindful that the WIA turns over about $500,000 per annum and has gone for some years making losses, or at best, a very small profit.  Tight business and financial management and prudent decision making during this period is critical to our future.  At least one of the reports I saw coming out of the National Office was vastly different to the numbers being reported by the Accounting System.  When I questioned a WIA Director on the matter I was advised “not to worry.  It’s just to give the Board an indication of how well we’re doing”.  Really?  I received a similarly dismissive answer when I asked about the lack of an end-of-year inventory count.  And again when I queried why a volunteer was not being reimbursed for a valid expense claim.  Very much improved?  Appropriate conduct for a Director?  I don’t think so.

Can the President prove that members should not be concerned that financial management is far from “very much improved” and that an unhealthy and arrogant culture persists within a key faction of the Board.

A functioning Board should be a positive experience for all Board members.  A functioning Board should enable its members to raise issues that are acknowledged and discussed in an open and collaborative environment.   The fact that the Boards’ culture and conduct led me to resign after just 6 weeks (and three other Board members in the previous 5 months) remains unaddressed.

To ensure members have access to a balanced record of the facts a website has been established.  Please visit the WIA Reform Group website for more info.  http://www.wiarg.org

In closing, I have a few questions for the President.  In the board newsletter Number 8/9, August September edition, the President stated that

“The operations at the WIA Office were considered in detail. This review was based on an office review that was completed by an external consultant”. 

After being questioned a number of times, the President advised the Facebook community in early March that the external consultant was Silverdale Training & Development.  This fact was also provided in the April edition of AR Magazine.  What has not been revealed is that WIA Director, Fred Swainston, is also a Director of this company.  Why was this fact not revealed to members?  Did the Director in question notify the Board of a conflict of interest?  Do the Board minutes reflect these decisions?  If office operations were considered in detail, why was a subsequent journey of discovery required?

WIA Members deserve far better than weak quotes from dead philosophers, poor decision making, and inappropriate Board conduct.

Sincerely,

Chris Chapman VK3QB

WIA Member